• 5 Things I learned from Dementia that make me a better person--#1


    I don't have a dementia diagnosis but I've coped with it as both a professional and family caregiver for the past 15 years. Our national dialogue talks about the many burdens dementia sufferers and their families face but seldom do we hear any positive takeaways. Over the next five months I'll share the life changing things I've learned and show how experience with dementia helps me face my own aging and aids me in personal growth. This month: Lesson #1

    Artwork above by Joan Dolan from The Artist Within Exhibit


  • 5 Things I've learned From Dementia #3

    This month: Lesson #3 Let go, let go, let go

    Artwork above from: Art of Alzheimer's

    My interaction with dementia is a study in letting go. In mid to later stages, dementia is variable day to day so expected outcomes may not occur and important things like: getting to appointments, taking a walk, going on an outing, or, perhaps, even attending to hygiene or eating may not happen when I, or others, think they need to happen. Caregivers need to let it go and try again later. People experiencing the condition have already let it go and are in a protracted state of loss. They are letting go of everything they built throughout their lives: their finances, their accomplishments, their material assets and perhaps their awareness of having family. Finally they will let go of life entirely prompting their loved ones to begin their journey of letting go. 

  • 5 Things I've learned From Dementia #4

    Painting by Rafe Schiwwmer courtesy of The Art of Alzheimers

    4) Take care of yourself. Your life may depend on it!

    Dementia in later stages can be all consuming. It may involve repetitive questioning or progress to a loss of executive function entirely. Caregivers cope with heavy demands for attention and sometimes ongoing resistance or aggressive behavior.  Nitty gritty hygiene needs and unpredictable behavior can be a daily reality. For some round the clock monitoring is necessary. Dementia can last 7 years or more and there are no drugs that cure and few that slow or manage the condition. This presents caregivers with a challenge: where is the time to take care of myself? 

  • 5 Things I've learned from Dementia--#2

    "Orange Lily" by Jane Kippenhan from The Art of Alzheimer's exhibit

    #2 Examine your need to be "right"

    Living in our polarized scientific society where it's common to hear arguments about who is right this lesson was hard to learn. Yet in dementia care one not only finds out immediately that it's counterproductive to be right but it's also not a winning strategy for establishing a therapeutic bond. The object of dementia caregiving is to become an ally and the highest priority is to establish trust because as dementia erodes judgement it is critical to know someone trustworthy to provide guidance. The reflex to be right is insidious and it pops up in language subconsciously. For example it's reflexive to say: "you're going the wrong way" which implies that you know the "right" way or "No, you didn't x" which means you hold the factual truth regarding x. Effectively supporting dementia requires a paradigm shift in communication and adopting that shift enriches my daily life and social contacts.